Monday, May 31, 2010

Quick BURN 24hr Report

Ellen, Scott, and Mike are back home and resting. I really should be sleeping after only 1.5 hours sleep Saturday, but for some odd reason I'm up and semi-coherent. The rest of the BFR crew got in a comfy stay at the Wilkesboro hotel room.

Great times again, despite the monsoon Friday night. We got the race compound set up literally next to the start line around 4pm Friday. Rains rolled in around 7pm and left water standing in the campground and popups demolished, but our stuff held out.

Race day saw us get stuff laid out and ready to roll, and the course was actually decent by go time--a little gooey in places to make for painful climbing through peanut-butter mud, a little slick on some of the bermed corners, but definitely rideable. Biggest pleasant surprise to me was that the mud really only stayed at trail level and did not kick up into brakes or drivetrain, so parts didn't get trashed.

Record number of racers, and the increased fields were mostly 5-person teams, so there were always fast people working their way around the course. Danny and Jay on one duo team, Mike and Scott on another duo team, Shawn solo, and Danielle, Ellen, and Marcus on a 3-person team.

Not too much bike carnage: multiple tire changes searching for the optimum tread/pressure, some broken saddles and spokes, and lots of literal pains in the butts of our racers' tails.

We delivered in spades: double-digit laps including everyone on the Angel team doing night laps for Marcus and the Angels, a win for Mike and the author as duo team Off Constantly, second for Jay and Danny in duo, and a second for Shawn.

Great job, teammates! I had a blast and was so glad to spend the weekend with you.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Have fun this weekend

Whatever you do this weekend, The Burn, The Giro, mow the lawn, or just slob and dribble on the couch...

do it with a little glee.

Shan, pre Cincinnati Marathon

But don't fool yourself into thinking it's all fun and games. I went back and dug this up - a little race recap from The Burn 24, 2008.

To call racing The Burn 24 Hour Mountain Bike Event the next logical step for anyone might seem like a contradiction of terms. Logic doesn’t account for much in the sub culture of mountain bikers who stay up all night racing for 24 hours by themselves. Nonetheless, The Burn 24 was really just that for my brother, Shawn: the next endurance race in a line of endurance races that seemed to fit together in order of ascending difficulty, building upwards in such a deviously easy way that might suggest the sky is the limit. But the sky is not the limit. Or so it didn’t appear to be at 1 AM on Sunday morning, the day before Memorial Day.

Moths sputtered around the lights we had hung in our pit, our trailer situated right beside the course where Shawn could stop and refuel every lap as he came through the transition area. Cicadas moaned on the wooded hill above Jason and me, Shawn’s pit crew, as we swapped bikes for him every other time he came through to head out on his next lap. Clean gears and fresh bottles seemed to help him, at least mentally, as he trudged around the 7.5 mile course that had seemed so fun and easy 12 hours ago. It gets strangely quiet at a 24 hour race around this time of night despite the hundreds of people occupying this makeshift tent city outside of Wilkesboro, NC. The hum of generators was punctuated by the occasional gear shift as racers continued to go out on their laps into the cold and darkness. Shawn came in from his 15th lap on the bermed, rollercoaster course and limped his way through the transition area to our pit. He looked completely beaten. Shelled, they like to say. He was shocked by the difficulty of trying to race a mountain bike for 24 hours in a row.

It all seems simple enough. Get on your bike. Ride around an 8 mile course that starts and ends at your tent. Eat something. Repeat as many times as you can in 24 hours.

“I still think 30 laps or so might take it,” I remind Shawn, as he eases into his chair. We’d calculated this a hundred times in the past week, how many laps it would take to win. 30 laps would mean something like 225 hard mountain bike miles within 24 hours.

“I need a minute,” the past 13 hours of racing had chased all the blood from his head, and his face had turned the color of a bone. He looked skinny in a bad way. He’d taken only one other break, a brief 10 minutes in the pits around 10 PM while Jason had wrenched on his bike and I’d plied him with pop tarts and cool water. He’d come away from that pit stop dazed, but he looked relatively together still, maybe even better than the few laps before where nausea and fatigue had been wearing him down around the track. But his next lap took nearly 1 hour, then he turned a 1:05. Steadily, his progression around the course was slowing while his condition worsened. He came in from lap 17, almost completely blown. He was dejected, ““They’re just better than me,” he murmured.

Not much better, but yes, maybe he was right. At that point, his chances of making up 3 laps on seasoned endurance racers like Santa Cruz Syndicate’s Mark Hendershot were growing small. It was cold. He was exhausted and only marginally lucid. I did my best to reason with him, “No, they went out hard. They’ll fold. Keep riding your race and good things will happen.”

It amazed me how fast the frontrunners had gone out through the 80 degree sun when the gun went off at noon. Hendershot, in particular, was cool and collected, steadily churning out 45 minute laps past nightfall, laps that I thought were sure to break him eventually. But they didn’t, and Hendershot rode on while Shawn paced himself back to 7th place in the large solo division, just trying to keep moving.

The evolution of an endurance athlete who is hooked on this kind of racing can be a rapid progression. A few years ago, Shawn and I raced the Shenendoah Mountain 100, a hundred mile mountain bike race through some of the best trails in the George Washington National Forest outside of Harrisonburg, Virginia. We finished together, at 10 hours and 50 minutes and change. I liked it, felt like maybe it was the sort of thing I would do again if I really felt strong. Shawn was hooked, and he wanted more.

Much more. Last year, Shawn raced 4 different 100 mile events. At the Cohutta 100 down in Tennessee, he placed 34th, only 1:30 behind the winner, Trek’s Chris Eatough. If Shawn had needed additional encouragement, that would have done it – but he didn’t need it. Thankfully so, because later in the season he crashed or cramped out of 3 other 100 milers. Undeterred, he placed well at a 50-miler Endurance race in West Virginia, and then he took 2nd at The Paranormal, a 6 hour local event in Earlysville.

The stage was nearly set. Shawn was logging hundreds of miles per week, riding at night, getting daily feedback from a coach online. The endurance bug had bitten him hard. Then the 18 hours on the Farm got delayed from August until November, and on a bitter cold night in early November, for 18 hours, Shawn raced and won the solo category there in Goochland.

We talked about it on his last lap at the Farm, 16 hours into a cold race with the sun now finally out and the temperature climbing. “I’ve got more to give,” he assessed.

24 hour racing was the only logical next step.

Eddie O’dea, race director of The Burn 24 and an accomplished racer himself (He won the 24 hours of Conyers solo category this year the week before The Burn 24), gave me his perspective on this progression, “I used to think a solo 12 hour race was crazy back when I raced cross country. Then after I competed in a 12 hour, I thought a 24 hour was just nuts....then I raced one (well 10 now). Now I don't know what's next, but whatever it is I want to keep pushing my limits.”

Eddie definitely knows a thing or two about putting on a great endurance race, as The Burn 24 has become one of the most popular endurance races in the Southeast. “The Dark Mountain trails are some of the best in the country. The Brushy Mountain Cycling Club does a fantastic job building and maintaining these trails, and it's an honor to be able to host the BURN 24 here as well as help support the BMCC.”

Asking around the event, there was a general consensus about The Burn being the premiere 24 Hour event in the Southeast. Registration prices are lower at The Burn than many other 24 Hour events, free BURN energy drink and post-race barbeque, and a fun atmosphere gives most participants all they’d need to return. But the course itself is even better, and as one racer could only describe it, “out of control.” 90% singletrack. 20 or so gigantic berms. 35 and 40 mph speeds were regularly clocked by riders with odometers as they whizzed around the 7.5 mile track in as little as 35 minutes, despite the 800+ feet of climbing. That’s fast on paper. It’s faster in person. For more information on the Dark Mountain trail system, visit

Eddie explains the appeal of his event further, “This is a grassroots event at heart, and I have tried to hold true to that experience while providing all the amenities that you would find at a world class event.” And it shows. Where Conyers only had 6 participants in their men’s solo race, The Burn 24 ended up with close to 50. Maybe that’s a testament to a really great race, but maybe more so it’s just an honor for an all around good guy who puts it on. “I really enjoy directing,” Eddie confirms. “It's as hard as racing, but a little different. It's very rewarding to create a positive experience for so many riders.”

“Positive experience” is not how I would have described what Shawn was going through at 3:50 AM. He’d been gone for over an hour, and Jason was pacing back and forth in front of our pit. The rattle and metallic grind of other racers shifting into bigger gears as they accelerated out past our tent started giving me the idea that maybe he’d had a mechanical. 3:55 AM, maybe his lights are out. I mentally count back the hours to the last time we changed batteries, and I struggle with the math. 3:58, our buddy Mike comes through the transition, leading the Open Duo category with Scott like they did last year, like they do every year, and I run to him and ask him if he’s seen Shawn.

“Yeah, he’s right down by the lake,” Mike confirms. “He looked awful when I came around him.”

Right at 4 AM, I see Shawn’s HID’s crest the hill into the transition slowly, like an old man into an elevator. He eases over to the pit, and slumps into a chair with his feet up. “I need a minute,” he slowly breathes.

The good news at this point is that he’s 16 hours into the race, and he deserves to be tired. The bad news is that he’s got 8 hours to go still, a big race by itself, and with his position he’s poised to either break into the top 5 or slide away into the teens. He can’t afford a rest.

He’s nauseous, barely holding down anything to eat now, and I check his water bottle from the last lap and he’s barely touched it. I’ve raced with him for years and never seen him in this much pain, and as his brother it’s difficult to know what to do. Should we help him up and stuff him back on the saddle? Allow him a brief rest and hope he’s better for it? His head keeps lolling back and hitting the back of his chair, and his helmet has fallen off. Jason and I opt to give him a minute. Two minutes. Ten minutes later, and despite the blankets we’ve piled on top of him he’s visibly shaking from the cold. The temperature has fallen down into the low 50’s, and he’s drenched from racing all night and now frozen in place. He knows he’s got to get changed, and he’s got to do it quickly before his body burns too much energy trying to keep warm.

It’s not the passage of time you’re fighting at this hour of the night – the tick of the clock is actually your best friend, a drop in the bucket towards finishing. The enemy, instead, is the inability to keep going. Shawn looks right on the verge. I jump into the trailer to get his next set of clothes, and I’m worried we’re looking at the end of the race for him. He’s mentally beaten, physically exhausted, and without any real hope to catch the leaders. What else is there to drive him on?

I turn around with his clothes, and to my surprise he’s on his feet, climbing into the trailer behind me. He’s shaking badly now, very cold. He strips, leaning against the wall of the trailer for stability, and he looks down where we laid his sleeping bag out for him before the race started in case he might need it. He stares at it.

“I’ll get a chair,” I reason with him. “You can sit down and get your gear on.” I duck out of the trailer and grab a camping chair then jump back in and put the chair behind him. He looks at the chair, looks at me, and then he stands up as straight as he can and pulls his dry socks and chamois on.

“If I sit down,” he says flatly, “I’m not getting back up.”

He’s not pitying himself and he’s not grieving how difficult this is, just stating the facts. But there’s a toughness in what he’s doing that I can’t fathom, and I realize that it’s that toughness that a 24 hour racer digs into when there’s nothing else left to give. That toughness is both a boon and a curse, because it hurts to quit but it hurts to proceed. Regardless, Shawn is digging deep for it.

Out of the trailer and back into the cold, I can’t believe he’s going to do it. He drinks a little coke and eats half a pop tart, stares blankly out across the transition area. “Give it until 8 AM,” I promise him, “This will get better.”

“I hope so,” he says. Without reason, he limps back onto his bike, clicks on his lights, and rides back into the darkness. It’s 4:30 AM Sunday morning.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Final tune up for Burn24

Went for a final tune up ride tonight with Jenny, Sheila, John, and Marcus. Got to hammer some wattage and pop the legs a little as a final prep for Burn. Took the Mountain Bike even to emulate positions and everything for the weekend. Great time, great weather....awesome.

I guess everything is pretty much set for the Burn 24 hour now. Bikes are ready, body is ready. I just hope I don't end up like this guy at 3am.

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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Johnny on Reeds.

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Whebee on Reed's Gap

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Whebee on Reed's Gap

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Johnny on Reeds.

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Friday, May 21, 2010

Burn 24 hour fleet.

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24 hour race psychology

I am not sure what drives me to get on a bike and ride for 24 hours solo. The personal challenge? The comraderie with fellow racers, promoters, and my pit crew? The shear effort and expendature of energy involved starts well before you ever toe the start line. Months out you mark a spot on your schedule for the year, you pedal, you run, you lift, and you stretch all year long aiming for that one crucial day. The focus from months out is tremendous.
20 weeks ago I was in Base training mode- Lots of miles, often on the Mountain Bike, often pedaling gravel and paved roads.
12 weeks ago the build phase of my training commenced, longer tempo efforts, intermittent LT efforts, basic skills work.
2 weeks ago Build ended and peaking for this event began: an emphasis was put on short hard efforts, toping off the ability to scramble up a hill. Through that time though, still long tempo efforts continued. More time was spent at LT or just below LT. Bike riding hurt more than usual.

Now, here we sit, 1 week and 1 day from the Burn 24 hour. Physically am I ready? Mentally am I prepared? Will my nutrition plan pan out? Will my tire selectionby the correct one?

My peak and training for this race will pale in comparision to what I do for the 18 hours on the farm race, that is my real focus for the year, but that does not downplay at all what goes into next Saturday and Sunday.

Over the past several years there are a few things I have learned:
1- never corner your self in with a plan that is too specific. Flexible and slightly vague seems to work better.

2- At one week out, prep all your equipment- bikes get new chains, swap cassettes if you need to. New brake pads, new tubes in the saddle packs and new tires go on and new sealant in the tires.

3- Ride EVERYTHING you will use on race day prior to the event exactly as you anticipate having it set up. Leave nothing to chance or that 'I set it up right mentality.'. Get out there and pedal and move the bike. At 3am, your whole effort can be derailed badly when your new chain suddenly has a bad quick link or you didn't notice that broken spoke in your race wheels.

4- bring along a pit crew you know and can trust. It is as important that they can joke with you at 230am when you are cramping a hamstring as it is that they can tune your suspension or gears. (Good cooking skills help also!) Marcus and Jenny get to play this role for me this year. They will have some help as well from Hugh, Erica, and anyone else unlucky enough to be in the pit at that hour when I come through somewhere between pooping and puking mentally and physically.

5- finally--have great equipment. If you are gonna be on it for 24 or more hours, have confidence in what you are gonna be on.

For me: the most reliable part of the whole thing is my people and my equipment: My Trek Top Fuels and Elite Hardtail. Equiped with Bontrager and DT Swiss componetry keep me rolling safe and efficiently through it all. Jenny and Marcus will do everything they can to keep me going mentally and physically.

So what does this all mean; I have no idea, but my bikes are prepped, My lights are charged, my food is selected, and all that is left to fail is me. So bring it on, let the games begin!

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Thursday, May 20, 2010


Test Run of the Burn 24 bike today. Primary rig with DT 1250 wheels, Bontrager XR1 tires 2.0 front and rear. New chain, SRAM 999 cassette and XTR shifter/ brake Dual control.

It feels fast, and I bet is under 20 lbs.
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Monday, May 17, 2010

Whetstone Ridge Pimping

After copious amounts of birthday shenanigans on Saturday, I got down to the dirty work on Sunday and soldiered down to Whetstone Ridge with The Shade Pig to see if we could properly groom that big, hairy monster (Whetstone, not the Pig) in preparation for the Giro De Ville coming in two weeks.

Whetstone doesn't get a lot of love, not only because it's a big, hairy monster, but also because it's a long way to drive just to use a brusher. And it's certainly an adventure with a loaded bob trailer.

one of the few times the trailer and bike remained upright

Brusher Blade #1
2 tanks of gas
100% necessary small bob trailer dropout clip
Bent Heckler dropout

On the plus side, we got some work done. I wouldn't call it fully pimped trail, but it's somewhere between open and buff (as buff as Whetstone could ever be) on the Universal Scale of Trail Conditions. For those of you who don't make it down that way much (that is, everyone I know) it's really worth the drive for something different.

Of note, the Shade Pig did get to see two furry creatures which he could not identify, which might mean he just isn't good with local fauna identication, or it might mean he saw something remarkable. He says they "loped" away when they saw him. Interesting. We have no photographic or video representation.

I do have this video, however, which is probably way better than whatever grainy/hazy video The Shade Pig/Fox Mulder might have taken anyway.

Scrapertown from California is a place. on Vimeo.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Belated Birthday Ride

Dave's Birthday was May 1st. Today we celebrate with a brewery ride. Not done yet though, so watch out! This photo is looking at the Blue Ridge from a brewery of the same name.

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Friday, May 14, 2010

There's a new sheriff in town

Clark Lavoie might have departed to enforce the law in parts South, but there's a new sheriff in town. Brianna Cunningham joined us yesterday, and she reckons there isn't enough room in this town for two sheriffs anyway.

a brief note here - I'm about 90% sure her name is Brianna, and only 50% sure that's how to spell it.

A beautiful baby. The miracle of life. It's sobering enough to keep me from remarking how tired she looks and then posting that picture of 9er at Lodi from 3 years ago. And that is pretty sobering.

Mom, Dad, Baby, and brother Gavin are all doing A-OK.

Monday, May 3, 2010

A picture is worth a thousand words......

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